Power in Not Knowing the Answer

BY VIN

I was born in India, and I was introduced to meditative practices early in my life. For my family in particular, and my culture in general, learning how to focus and how to have a clear mind were very important goals. At the same time, academics were even more important. Nothing was more vital to my parents than my getting good grades, so I could get a good degree, and so that all of that would lead to a stable, high-paying job. As I grew older, I realized that all of that emphasis on meditation and self-centering was really just meant to be a tool to make me more successful in school and business, not necessarily to make me calmer or happier.

I spent my teens and my 20s focused single-mindedly on external success, determined to impress others with my achievements. I did reach my goals, but at a great cost to myself and my relationships.

People found me rigid. I had thought I was open-minded, but it turned out that my understanding of open-mindedness was limited. I had thought it enough to be able to listen to everyone’s opinions and accept what they were saying – outwardly. On the inside, though, I was very judgmental of those who led a different life than I did. I remember once chatting with a woman I found very attractive, and she told me that she had grown up on a ranch, hunting for both meat and sport. I made a face, and when she asked me what the face was for, I launched into how disgusting and dangerous I thought guns were. I hurt her feelings and “shot down” any chances I had with her, but it was as if I couldn’t help myself. I was hard on myself and on other people.

I came to OM looking for like-minded people. I was also deeply yearning to meet a woman who had a mindset with which I could connect. In hindsight, I had a rather limited view of what I wanted – but I did know that mental and spiritual connection were more important to me than appearances. Something about the way that OM combined the erotic and the meditative gave me hope I might find it.

My first OM was such an incredible sensory overload. On the one hand, I remember that I struggled to find a comfortable position, and my foot fell asleep. On the other hand, there was all of this mental excitement, this wonder at doing something seemingly so intimate with someone I had just met. As I continued to stroke, however, all of those thoughts began to be replaced with a sense of peace. I’d been around a lot of meditative practices, but the container that OM creates, where there are no expectations, and all communication is so deftly handled – I’d never been around anything like this. I felt as if I was holding space as a stroker, and then I started to feel that the woman and I were both being held by the practice itself. It was incredibly comforting.

Everyone has a different experience, and I think it’s important to stress that. So many strokers described feeling electricity and buzzing on the tips of their fingers, and I never felt anything like that. For a while, I wondered what I was doing wrong that my own finger didn’t seem to come alive like theirs did. What I realized, though, was that I was experiencing all this energy and warmth in my diaphragm and in my gut, and these senses of internal heat and calm were more beneficial anyway. It wasn’t about having the exact same set of sensations everyone else had; it was about my own process. Because I came from a background in meditation, I could see how much more intense and healing OM was compared to anything else I had tried.

I remember going on a weekend retreat with people also studying OM. We took a long bus ride into the mountains, and by the time we were all ready to practice, it was late and many of us were sleepy. I remember building a cozy OM nest in my cabin. I felt a deep sense of connection with the woman I was stroking, even before we started. And at some point in the OM, it hit me that I also felt connected to everyone else in my life. I felt a true openness I had never really had, where I could radically accept everyone else and be certain that I was accepted. It was like watching all my old feelings of separation and judgment just slough off my skin. I belong here, I realized; this is my practice and this is my place.

In some ways, OM has made my professional work more difficult. I mean that in a good way, though. I was so one-dimensional, so focused on achievement before OM. I was probably a workaholic, and I was certainly single-minded about creating success for myself. OM has reshaped my own drives, and made me look for more connected, open, warm working environments. I’m much more collaboratively focused, and collaboration is sometimes messier than trying to do it all on one’s own. My colleagues who remember me before I came to OM can see the difference in me, and they remind me of it often. I don’t want to brag, but someone told me recently how glad they are when they see me in a meeting – as they know that the meeting will be more effective for everyone because I’m there. That’s not the way things were before!

In the business world, so many people are afraid of asking questions for fear of looking stupid. There’s so much focus on feigning competence and confidence, and all that pretense just leads to a lot of mistakes down the road. To ask a question is hard, because it means you admit that you don’t understand everything. People are terrified to do that. OM has taught me that there is tremendous power in being teachable, in not knowing the answer – so I’m the one who takes the risk and asks the questions that others won’t dare ask. That’s made me popular with my colleagues, because I take the heat off them, and it’s made me feel more effective in my work. Everything, absolutely everything, is connected. And I see that, and I live that now.